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Power Science Technology

Wood Nanobattery Could Be Green Option For Large-Scale Energy Storage 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the tree-power dept.
cylonlover writes "Li-ion batteries may be ok for your smartphone, but when it comes to large-scale energy storage, the priorities suddenly shift from compactness and cycling performance (at which Li-ion batteries excel) to low cost and environmental feasibility (in which Li-ion batteries still have much room for improvement). A new 'wood battery' could allow the emerging sodium-ion battery technology to fit the bill as a long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery for large-scale energy storage."
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Wood Nanobattery Could Be Green Option For Large-Scale Energy Storage

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  • Now when your battery catastrophically fails (like Li-Ion), you have the added benefit of instant campfire!
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Now when your battery catastrophically fails (like Li-Ion), you have the added benefit of instant campfire!

      In case of alarm, break glass, remove pointy stick and bag of Stay Puft marshmallows.

    • Wood use is minimal. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Valdrax (32670) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:31PM (#44217787)

      The use of wood is minimal and is only used as a flexible inner core for what is primarily a carbon nanotube anode. The majority of the battery is still inorganic materials.

      (But, hey, one can't expect the first post to have actually read the fine article.)

      • by afidel (530433)

        Yes, and the use of nanotubes (if the geometry is at all important) means the promise of cheap is a bit far fetched, mwcnt's are stupid expensive, swcnt are 50-100x more and aren't yet produced on commercial scales.

    • by tippe (1136385)

      I sure hope they use cedar. Cedar battery smoked salmon could be quite good...

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:23PM (#44217717)

    Now your laptop can be infested with termites and attract hungry chimps.

    • Now your laptop can be infested with termites

      It's still better than a Dell laptop infested with thermites, wouldn't you say?

      • did Dell ever build a magnesium chassis? Only one I know of (and actually own two such examples) are the Panasonic Toughbooks.

    • Here's the ingenious part, though. You want until Winter and all the chimps freeze to death!

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:23PM (#44217719) Journal

    The rest of us call it charcoal...

  • batteries in general are a thing of the past. they are incredibly inefficient, as they use a chemical reaction to create elecricity. all future research should be spent on graphene supercapacitors, which charge thousands of times faster than batteries and carry much more charge... graphene is also 100% biodegradable and totally flexible, which of course means we will be able to roll up our phones/tablets and put them in our pockets.
    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:30PM (#44217781) Homepage Journal

      FTR, use of the phrase "[object X] is/are (a) thing(s) of the past" kind of implies that the replacement technology is already here and adopted en masse...

      That said, I'm not seeing a whole lot of graphene supercaps for sale on Amazon these days; hopefully soon.

      • by RenderSeven (938535) on Monday July 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#44218831)
        Well, Amazon has graphene and they have supercaps, so just buy them together for a nifty savings. Also, given the clever and unexpected ways UPS can mangle a package, odds are good that eventually they would arrive fused into a workable single item.
        • If I wasn't the person whose comment you're responding to, I would give you my last mod point.

          Also, given the clever and unexpected ways UPS can mangle a package, odds are good that eventually they would arrive fused into a workable single item.

          Unfortunately, we'll never know because they delivered it to the wrong address.

        • Wow, that sounds almost like -- the theory of evolution. Sorta. Kinda. Well, maybe not...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      I think that charging of batteries is mostly limited by the plug that it's connected to. Looking at cars like the Tesla, the reason they take so long to charge is because you have to hook it up to a really big power source to get all that energy in such a short period of time. You could have a capacitor that slowly charged off the mains so that when you wanted to refill your car it had all the energy needed, but there would still need to be some way to connect the two capacitors.
      • I think that charging of batteries is mostly limited by the plug that it's connected to.

        Charge time is often limited by battery chemistry and construction. Lithium ion batteries, for example, are typically limited to a rate of 1C (a theoretical 1 hour charge time from empty to 100%). In practice, those li-ion batteries take several hours to reach 100% charge because the rate slows down dramatically near as the battery reaches full.

        Consider the Tesla S sedan: Not coincidentally, Tesla's 300A Supercharger stations "can charge about half the battery in 30 minutes." We are not likely to se

    • Because what could possibly go wrong if a super capacitor is overcharged and explodes?

    • by sjames (1099) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:53PM (#44217995) Homepage

      'All' we have to do is increase their energy density by a factor of 10, get rid of leakage, and come up with a giood way to keep them from discharging all at once without exploding or degrading their performance too badly.

      They may well get there one day, but not today.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      While wonder materials solve many problems, there are even more problems in their production.

    • by Dishevel (1105119)

      batteries in general are a thing of the past. they are incredibly inefficient, as they use a chemical reaction to create elecricity. all future research should be spent on Nanoscale Fusion Reactors. Because all other technologies are bullshit.

      FTFY.

      Also. People like you are fucking tools.

      • Stop. You had me at Nanoscale Fusion Reactors. You lost me at fucking tools but at least I was right there with you for a moment.
        • by Dishevel (1105119)

          I was stating that the parent of my post is a Tool.
          A self important shithead that believes that he has something to add to the conversation because he has heard of a new technology.
          Therefore everything else sucks ass and should be relegated to a museum.

      • People like you are fucking tools.

        I can't tell if that's adjective-noun or verb-noun. I guess the meaning is the same either way.

  • You know, it seems fairly simple to conceive of some kind of storage medium for solar energy that is cheap, easy, and environmentally sound. If only there were a way to gather up immense amounts of solar energy and store it in some medium that had a reasonably high energy density, was easy to store and cheap to maintain in storage, and where it was quite easy to extract the stored energy, that could even be stored as solid fuel. If only there were a way to easily manufacture such a fuel locally, at or near

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:38PM (#44217861) Journal

      You know, it seems fairly simple to conceive of some kind of storage medium for solar energy that is cheap, easy, and environmentally sound. If only there were a way to gather up immense amounts of solar energy and store it in some medium that had a reasonably high energy density, was easy to store and cheap to maintain in storage, and where it was quite easy to extract the stored energy, that could even be stored as solid fuel. If only there were a way to easily manufacture such a fuel locally, at or near the point of consumption, and even better, without the use of harsh chemicals and boatloads of energy.

      It's too bad nothing even remotely like that exists today.

      Alas, the vengeful ghost of Sadie Carnot is sitting on your woodpile and whispering dark mockery of the efficiency of any heat engine small enough to fit in the places where we want electricity...

      I will admit, that with a good steam engine and a few Stout Irish as stokers, my Analytical Engine does me good service; but spilling my cellphone's boiler down my collar last week was most painful.

      • My backup battery consists of a copper wire, a zinc nail, and a potato.

        Four such cells connected in series charges a mobile phone quite nicely. Not enough current to actually run the thing while charging, mind, but it does sort the battery.

    • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Monday July 08, 2013 @03:42PM (#44218471)

      This "wood battery" is an interesting concept, but this problem has already been solved by a team at MIT. They've been developing the technology over the last several years, and are now in the process of commercializing it. The first "commercial" prototypes are expected early next year. The details are in this video lecture [youtube.com] by the inventor, Donald Sadoway.

      This technology has great potential to revolutionize the way we produce and use energy. Worth a look...

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      Just use a device that can convert mass to kinetic energy, like a fusion reactor.

  • Much like Nickel-Zinc batteries, this is a great alternative for environmentally-unfriendly power storage.

    Now I have to wonder, could this be easily recycled and refreshed to a new state?

    If so, despite the lower power density, I'd buy electronics using this battery without any hesitation.

    What is the output voltage of such a cell and how much power drain can it withstand without going stupid?

    If it can withstand high drains and provides at LEAST 1.4V per cell, I'd be happy.

    • Much like Nickel-Zinc batteries, this is a great alternative for environmentally-unfriendly power storage.

      Now I have to wonder, could this be easily recycled and refreshed to a new state?

      If so, despite the lower power density, I'd buy electronics using this battery without any hesitation.

      What is the output voltage of such a cell and how much power drain can it withstand without going stupid?

      If it can withstand high drains and provides at LEAST 1.4V per cell, I'd be happy.

      the wood-nanotube anode is the main part that would need to be replaced -- so the real question is: "what is the energy input and what are the waste products associated with creating this wood-nanotube composite anode?"

    • Recycling wood batteries = BBQ

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      You don't really know much about science, do you?

      Much like Nickel-Zinc batteries, this is a great alternative for environmentally-unfriendly power storage.

      You don't store power, you store energy.

      If so, despite the lower power density, I'd buy electronics using this battery without any hesitation.

      Again, energy, not power. Most modern batteries have gobs of power density, and far more power than the devices they are used with draw. That's not a problem. The problem is energy density. The only time you really worry about power density is when you're using a short duration UPS that doubles as a generator starter, or are using a flow battery or fuel cell. Other than that, if you've got a reasonable energy capac

      • by Khyber (864651)

        Pedantry

        Pedantry

        "Who cares what voltage it operates at?"

        For those of us that work with devices that utilize voltage drops, like LEDs? INFINITELY FUCKING VALUABLE.

        Seems like you don't pay much attention to science, let alone electronics engineering.

        • by wagnerrp (1305589)
          You've never going to operate any complex piece of electronics straight off the battery. You're always going to have some form of power supply, and it's going to be able to provide you whatever voltage you need regardless of the input voltage.
          • by Khyber (864651)

            "You've never going to operate any complex piece of electronics straight off the battery."

            Says your ill-educated self. Try looking at RVs and portable housing. Oh, shit, those happen to run straight off a battery bank, along with the 12V sockets ALL OVER THE PLACE.

            Try again when you've actually dealt with power systems besides the one attached to your circuit breaker in your house, child.

            • by wagnerrp (1305589)
              Resistance heaters (including evaporation refrigerators), incandescent lighting, and brushed motors can run directly off 12VDC. Just about everything else is going to need some form of voltage regulator to operate.
              • by wagnerrp (1305589)

                (including evaporation refrigerators)

                Make that "absorption refrigerators".

              • by Khyber (864651)

                Nope, we've got most everything including data centers running off of 12V. Try again.

                • by wagnerrp (1305589)

                  You're missing my point. The data center does NOT run off 12V. Your florescent lighting requires AC, and very high voltage at that. Your compressors and ventilation fans are running high voltage AC as well. On your server systems, you're feeding 12V into a power supply, which is then feeding 3.3V, 5V, and 12V into the motherboard and various components, and the motherboard steps the voltage again to power all the various components. You could just as easily feed 24V in, saving lots on bus bars to handl

            • by wagnerrp (1305589)

              Try looking at RVs and portable housing. Oh, shit, those happen to run straight off a battery bank

              To be frank, they don't matter. They have plenty of available volume to run any number of cells in series to reach their desired voltage. Lead-acid batteries nominally operate at 2V, but the typical battery has six cells to reach that typical 12V. Nickel and Lithium based batteries run 1.2V and 3.7V, respectively, but you see them arrayed in packs operating at several hundred volts for electric cars. The individual cell voltage only really matters for small, portable electronics, where you don't have ro

              • by Khyber (864651)

                "To be frank, they don't matter. They have plenty of available volume to run any number of cells in series to reach their desired voltage."

                No they don't there's this thing called 'space' which severely limits the available energy storage volume.

                "Lead-acid batteries nominally operate at 2V, but the typical battery has six cells to reach that typical 12V. Nickel and Lithium based batteries run 1.2V and 3.7V, respectively, but you see them arrayed in packs operating at several hundred volts for electric cars."

                • by wagnerrp (1305589)

                  The individual cell voltage only really matters for small, portable electronics, where you don't have room for multiple cells.

                  And this is exactly what I meant, including lower-powered LED arrays.

                  So in other words, we're going to define the entire worth of a battery based off whether it can be used with something that is too small to support multiple cells, yet dumb enough to not require a regulator?

          • Most electronic devices, even very complex ones, can be designed to run off a single voltage without converters or regulators, provided that you're not looking for high performance.
  • Salt is NOT benign (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Monday July 08, 2013 @02:41PM (#44217881) Journal

    Just ask the Romans [wikipedia.org] how environmentally friendly sodium is. The citizens of Carthage would be able to tell you, if they were not all killed.

    • 55,000 Carthaginians survived and were sold into slavery. Granted, that was only about 10% of the city's pre-battle population, but they weren't all killed.
    • Meh I use the stuff on my driveway, cheapest weedkiller I ever bought. Still though if you're worried about the environmental impact of salt you might want to check what almost three quarters of the earth is covered with.

      • If I can be charged a tax on the rain that falls on my property (Maryland Rain Tax), then I can make jokes about how toxic salt is too.

        • rain tax?? I've heard about this, it's really fucked up. We need a full-on slashdot discussion about how privatising the stuff that randomly FALLS OUT OF THE SKY and is ESSENTIAL TO ALL LIFE ON EARTH isn't the sole property of a commercial interest like NESTLÉ.

          • Different Maryland counties have a different amount. The county I live in has decided they are morally opposed to the law, and are charging $.01 per property. However, the county has to figure out how to come up with $100 million to pay for "stormwater improvements". Other counties used satellite imagery to decide what is a non-permeable surface (asphalt, roof, etc.) and charge their residents by square footage. Your average mall is going to see a few million dollar surcharge per year.

    • Just ask the Romans [wikipedia.org] how environmentally friendly sodium is.

      The whole "sowing the ground with salt" thing is symbolic - it doesn't (and didn't, in Carthage's case) render the area uninhabitable.

      Unless you use a huge amount of salt, which they couldn't afford even if they'd had it available in such quantities (they didn't).

      • Carthage was on the ocean, so I would imagine salt was in abundance.

        But despite that, you are correct in your assessment. The whole "salting of the Earth" was decided to be hyperbole, but it did make for a funny reference.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          brawndo it got electrolytes it what plants crave

    • You have missed the point- sodium is made from the electrolysis of salt where lithium must be mined at great expense and environmental impact.

    • Salt was not cheap for Romans. It was so rare Roman soldiers were actually paid in salt. The Latin word for salt, salar is the root of the word salary. They certainly did not have it at enough quantities to poison the land or people. They probably sprinkled the conquered cities with salt in some kind of symbolic ritual. Talking about symbolic military ceremonies involving salt, nothing beats the induction ceremony of the Gorkha soldiers. These tribals pledge fealty to anyone who has given them salt. At the
  • Yet another PAYWALLED paper. Click if you love the Gizmodo "Gee-Whizz" summaries. Otherwise ...

    $35 for 48 hours of reading. And exactly how much of that actually goes to the researchers or back to us who undoubtedly paid for at least parts of the research if not the whole thing thru Fed or state $.

    Nano Letters = http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl400998t?journalCode=nalefd [acs.org]

    .

  • by steveha (103154) on Monday July 08, 2013 @03:39PM (#44218421) Homepage

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium-ion_battery [wikipedia.org]

    I'm wondering how useful this technology would be for large-scale energy storage. Say you have a wind farm, and you want to grab all the power when the wind is blowing, and store it for later.

    400 charge/discharge cycles seems like each battery might last a year. Then the battery is swapped out for a new one. How expensive is that part?

    How much will it cost to take a wood battery and recover the sodium and tin? Would it be cheaper to dispose of the sodium and just build a new battery? How do you dispose of sodium anyway... mix it with chlorine to make salt, or just dump it in the ocean, or bury it, or what?

    Hmm. I did a Google search on "refine sodium" and it looks as if, much like aluminum, you use an electric process to purify sodium. If so, then refining sodium can be viewed as another way to use excess power. Perhaps it would make sense to have a facility to recycle old sodium ion batteries co-located with a major wind farm or other large-scale variable power source?

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080514052937AAu27e4 [yahoo.com]

    And how does this compare with other well-understood technologies for energy storage? For example: using excess power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

    P.S. Another article:

    http://www.kurzweilai.net/a-battery-made-of-wood-long-lasting-efficient-environmentally-friendly [kurzweilai.net]

    • It is far easier to melt the salt and store it in underground chambers and use it to produce steam later to drive the turbines.
  • by carrier lost (222597) on Monday July 08, 2013 @05:11PM (#44219273) Homepage
    I keep reading it as, "Natalie Wood Battery"
  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday July 08, 2013 @08:38PM (#44221051) Journal

    Why bother with any kind of expensive, complex, and non-servicable battery? Pumped hydro is proven on a large scale, doesn't need DC/AC conversion, gets 70%+ efficiencies, and more if you seal it to stop evaporation, and is much simpler and cheaper, since it's just a high/low tank, a pump and generator.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity [wikipedia.org]

    If you're anywhere remotely near an existing dam, it's extremely inexpensive to just add pumped hydro storage capabilities to it. Otherwise, just find the nearest mountain, and excavate a lake at the top, as well as one at the bottom, and a few lines between them to turn the generators.

    The only place massive batteries make sense is on tiny (off-grid) scales, where you can't afford to have even one person around, monitoring the systems. Maybe this will work for off-grid homes with solar or wind power. Or maybe it'll see some use in large UPSes for cell towers, data centers, etc. But it would be pointless for a grid-tied deployment, where the power company can install a central pumped-hydro peaking/leveling system when renewables begin to supply a significant percentage of base load.

    • by volmtech (769154)
      This might work but some states do not even have hydro-power. Some thing to to with being flat. Solar and some tidal power is available in Florida but cheap battery storage is needed for night time usage. With our warm, moist climate air conditioning is needed 24/7 most of the year.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        some states do not even have hydro-power. Some thing to to with being flat

        That doesn't make it impossible. Water towers already exist in many cities with particularly flat geographies. You can resort to pumping water up off-peak, and turning (very small) turbines when power is needed.

        And batteries aren't necessarily the best option. Liquid-sodium solar-thermal power plants are quite compelling. Compressed air seems to be practical, and could perhaps be less expensive than batteries on a large enough sca

  • but when it comes to large-scale energy storage, the priorities suddenly shift from compactness and cycling performance (at which Li-ion batteries excel) to low cost and environmental feasibility

    Environmental feasibility is just an empty term. A lot of toxic substances are perfectly fine as long as they're properly contained. For example, the traditional lead acid battery fits the bill. It's low cost. And would you rather have that lead in the landfill instead of in a working battery?

  • "Because... because they're made of wood?"

  • This "wood battery" is an interesting concept, but this problem has already been solved by a team at MIT. They've been developing the technology over the last several years, and are now in the process of commercializing it. The first "commercial" prototypes are expected early next year. The details are in this video lecture [youtube.com] by the inventor, Donald Sadoway. This technology has great potential to revolutionize the way we produce and use energy. Worth a look... -- XML is like violence. If it do

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